Hiring assessments or pre-employment tests for job candidates
Hiring 5 minute read

Hiring assessments or pre-employment tests for job candidates

Andra Mircioiu | May 21, 2020

If you’re a recruiter or hiring manager, you might have witnessed or experienced firsthand the frustration, disappointment and cost of a bad hire.That's why hiring assessments can be a crucial element in the hiring process.

The Work Institute estimates that the cost of losing an employee amounts to $15,000 USD—and, according to them, that’s a conservative estimate. Add in the onboarding and training costs for a new employee and that number is thousands more. 

One way to reduce employee turnover due to a bad hire is to introduce hiring assessments, namely pre-employment tests that can tell you how well a candidate’s skills match up with the requirements of the role. Pre-employment tests are best suited for assessing hard skills, i.e. whether the candidate has the experience or know-how to do the job, rather than assessing culture fit or soft skills. 

Read on to learn how to introduce pre-employment tests into your hiring practices to help you better evaluate candidates and minimize hiring mistakes in your organization. 

The (surprising) truth about job applicants  

Global employment website Monster.com recently released the results of their 2019 State of the Recruiter survey, which polled over 1,700 full-time recruiters from around the world (including Canada and the UK).

Some of the findings are that 71% of recruiters “say they struggle to fill a position because of candidate skills gaps” and 85% of recruiters “agree that candidates exaggerate skills and competencies on their résumé”. 

Web-based talent decision tool Checkster recently published the results of their study on ethical standards in the hiring process, which surveyed 400 applicants and 400 hiring managers. Checkster’s study found that 60% of applicants claimed mastery in skills for which they only had basic knowledge and 42% invented relevant experiences to match job postings. 

So instead of relying on a candidate’s potentially skewed self-assessment, you can introduce hiring assessments to cut down significantly on résumé fibbing and candidates who overpromise, but underdeliver, on their skillset. 

Hiring managers have a strong understanding of the must-haves and nice-to-have skills for any given role so they’re the best resource to tap when it comes to crafting pre-employment tests. 

If you’re hiring to replace a current employee who’s still within their notice period, reach out to them for concrete examples of day-to-day tasks and what they’d consider essential skills for the role. 

If the role involves deliverables (for example writing, design, coding), find the brief for a short completed project—or a smaller part of a project—and use it to evaluate potential candidates by comparing their pitch or final project to the project you have on file. 

For roles such as an administrative assistant or customer service rep, you can ask candidates to problem-solve a scenario that may have already taken place at your organization, such as emailing the CEO to let them know about a day full of back-to-back meetings or writing a short pitch to a lead. Assess the text for any spelling mistakes, tone of voice and score it against samples that others already in your organization have written to help you get an idea of which candidates you should move forward in your hiring process. 

Try to keep any candidate assessment to under 30 minutes. It’ll be quicker for you and/or the hiring manager to assess each candidate’s contribution and also respects the candidate’s personal time. If you want to test a more robust project, consider paying the candidates a small fee for their work. Use industry guidelines or the role’s salary band to determine the hourly rate for your hiring assessment test. 

Whatever option you choose, be sure to include a line in your job postings so that candidates know what to expect and self-select out of the process if they choose. Be clear that you won’t be using the content created by the candidates anywhere on your website or in your materials to allay any suspicions that you’re after free work. 

Most often, hiring assessments happen after a successful phone interview but before an in-person or video interview. This is especially helpful if you’re considering flying a candidate in for an interview. 

If the role requires a specific essential skill, use the pre-employment test to screen for that. For example, ask candidates to write a few lines of code or proofread a paragraph intentionally riddled with errors. This can happen during the initial application or just after you’ve received their résumé and assessed their experience. 

You can also use a pre-employment test to help you decide between two or three final candidates and get a feel for their process and approach. 

The one pitfall of hiring assessments is that it may miss out on a candidates ability to learn, or re-skill. 

Pre-employment tests are great at refining your candidate pool, helping you to narrow it down to a few strong candidates. 

However, assessment tests fail to take into account one thing that may put a candidate at the top: learning ability. Strong background knowledge and experience with specific programs are valuable assets when hiring. However, if you’re hiring a developer who doesn’t have any experience with one particular programming language but has demonstrated through their cover letter and résumé that they pick things up quickly and “speak” code very well, you might consider putting them through to the next round. 

In the end, your hiring experience is what helps you select the best candidates. Pre-employment tests are just one set of assessment tools that can help you achieve that. 

Liked this article on using pre-employment tests to help you assess a candidate’s skill level and bolster confidence in your hiring decisions? Don’t keep it to yourself. Share it with your network or others in your organization. 

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